The 56th General Assembly (GA) of the UUA was held in New Orleans, LA, from June 21-25, 2017. This annual meeting of Unitarian Universalists had over 4000 delegates representing more than 500 congregations. This includes over 490 off-site participants, which included Wayne Dawkins. On-site UUFP delegates were: Jaimie Dingus, Sandra Engelhardt and Barbara Linde. Pat Sloan attended GA and the two day program on racism prior to GA. The theme of this GA was “Resist and Rejoice."
This GA was the most intense of my 17 GAs, as so many of the issues were difficult and uncomfortable. One issue was the selection of our new president. When we voted, we had to mark our choices with a 1, 2, or 3. Susan Frederick-Gray received 40% of the vote in the first round, to 33% for Rev. Jeanne Pupke, and 28% for Rev. Alison Miller. When second place votes were apportioned, Fredrick-Gray finished with 57% to Pupke’s 43%.
Another issue was the proposed changes to the Principles. The change of men and women to people was passed. The change of every person to every being was not passed.
A third issue was the Statement of Conscience (SOC) Escalating Economic Inequality (Click the red link to read the drafted version). After numerous changes were made at the mini-assembly and a long discussion at plenary, the SOC was passed overwhelming.
Perhaps the largest issue was the future role of our association in dealing with race. During a “Co-Presidents’ Reflection,” Interim Co-president Sofia Betancourt declared the moment is now for Unitarian Universalism “to be on the forward moving edge again on racial justice.” This was displayed throughout the entire GA with many of the remarks and workshops focused on this topic.
Some other highlights:
- A new commission was created, entitled Commission on Institutional Change. Its focus will be an examination of the impact of white supremacy on Unitarian Universalism. This is the result of the hiring practices controversy at UUA.
- At the Service of the Living Tradition, Rev. Cheryl M. Walker, of Wilmington, NC, urged UUs to make a difference. “Go out and climb your own mountains. Speak your own truth. Make your own impact, Make your difference.” Rev. Walker is the President of the UU Ministers Association. Rev. Buffy Boke retired. $89,000 was collected.
- President’s Annual Award for Volunteer Service went to Black Lives of Unitarian Universalists (BLUU) for giving us a “movement moment." Earlier the organization was promised $5.3 million dollars by the board to guarantee the long-term commitment of the association to BLUU.
- In other financial news, due to the severance packages granted those who resigned, the treasurer expects a deficit of $337,000. The board has made policy changes to ensure that does not happen again.
- Ware Lecture – Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, AL and author of “Just Mercy” stated: “The opposite of poverty isn’t wealth – it is justice.” There are four essential things that we must do to create a more just and equal world, Stevenson told UU’s: "Get proximate to the poor, the excluded, neglected and abused; change the narratives that underlie racism and other inequalities; stay hopeful about creating justice, and be willing to do uncomfortable things.” Due to copyright issues this cannot be shown.
Part 2 will discuss: UUSC, Sunday morning worship and the three Responsive Resolutions, as well as various workshops attended.